THE PAKISTAN CAULDRON
Author: James P Farwell
Pulisher: Pentagon, Rs 795
This is one more addition to the growing list of tomes that believe that Pakistan has already become a dysfunctional state, writes Anil Bhat
It was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who first announced Pakistan’s ambition of making an ‘Islamic Bomb’ in the early 1970s. It was meant to be a nuclear bomb with pan-Islamic involvement — read financial support — for a country not even three-decade-old then. This happened shortly after the 1972 Simla talks, held for negotiating the return of 93,000 Pakistani military personnel taken as prisoners-of-war during the 1971 war. Years later, during yet another interlude of the civilian rule in Pakistan — Benazir Bhutto’s regime to be precise — her rival, Nawaz Sharif let the cat out of the bag by publicly announcing that Pakistan possessed nukes.
Meanwhile, Abdul Qadeer Khan, later christened as the “father of Pakistan’s Islamic Bomb”, was hobnobbing in Holland on a mission which had nothing to with its windmills. Khan succeeded in procuring the necessary initial wherewithals to make nuclear weapons. More surreptitious shopping for other materials was done with assistance from China and some other European countries. The rest is history, particularly how Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests at Chagai Hills in 1998.
The US can’t plead to be not guilty either. On February 27, 2005, Douglas Frantz wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the US took far too long to act, letting Khan sell illicit technology well after it knew of his operation.
Today, as the world is worried about the security of Pakistan’s nukes from the looming threat of its military-jihadi axis, James P Farwell writes in his book, The Pakistan Cauldron, that while Pakistan may be a dysfunctional country, its military is disciplined and ruthless in its efforts to protect its nuclear arsenal. He also tells
us how the Pakistani Government managed to keep the country’s nuclear programme under cover for so long.
Set in four parts, the book closely examines Khan’s activity and Gen Pervez Musharraf’s efforts to protect the country’s nuclear secrets. It must be noted that during Musharraf’s tenure as President, when Pakistan received substantial arms and monetary aid from the US for fighting against the same terrorists which the Army/ISI had been covertly supporting, Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal grew significantly with Chinese assistance.
This is, however, not the first — or the best — book on the issue. Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear network, how its arsenal developed over 30 years with American aid and how that technology was sold to countries hostile to the US and the West, have been well researched by investigative writers Adrain Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark in their book, Deception.
The second part of the book deals with careers of and conflicts between Bhutto and Musharraf as well as events related to the former’s assassination. Part three looks at Bhutto’s assassination, while the fourth and the last part deals with the aftermath.
Assessing the historical legacy and influence of Bhutto, the book says that the Pakistani intelligence did not hesitate to hatch the plot to assassinate its former Prime Minister. Here it needs to be mentioned that noted Pakistani journalist Amir Mir had interviewed Bhutto just before her assassination where she famously said: “You can name Musharraf as my assassin if I am killed.” Based on extensive research and investigation, Mir concluded that not only did Musharraf had prior knowledge of the assassination plot, but also the Pakistan Army and the ISI were deeply involved.
Farwell’s background as a national security expert and a political consultant enables him to assess the impact of the Osama bin Laden raid and how that has affected Pakistani politics. He also rightly evaluates how Musharraf mishandled the aftermath of Bhutto’s assassination. Raising the issue of Pakistani involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the author says that Pakistan’s India-phobia is self-defeating.
The book, despite its weaknesses, is a recommended read.
Bhat is a security expert on Pakistan